Tuesday, July 26, 2011

“Happy Are You, O Israel!”

Third Quarter 2011 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Happy Are You, O Israel!”
For the week of  July 24-30, 2011
(PDF Link)
Now will I rise, saith the LORD; now will I be exalted; now will I lift up myself.  Ye shall conceive chaff, ye shall bring forth stubble: your breath, as fire, shall devour you. And the people shall be as the burnings of lime: as thorns cut up shall they be burned in the fire. Hear, ye that are far off, what I have done; and, ye that are near, acknowledge my might.
The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? 
He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil;
“He shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.  Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off” (Isaiah 33:10-17).
Fire is essential to human survival.  The sun itself, by which we receive some of God’s life-sustaining energy, is to us a perpetual hydrogen-fueled cauldron of purifying energy. 
But the sun exhibits just an infinitesimal fraction of the power of God. When we see God high and lifted up, there is a certain clarifying, terrifying intensity in how good He really is.  It makes us see something about how appalling our sin problem really is.
In Leviticus 9, we see that the fat, representing sin, is completely consumed by the glory of God, along with the burnt offering, which prefigured Christ, our great sin-bearer. 
There is no escaping the “Consuming Fire.”  All sin will be consumed.  We must cooperate with Christ now in separating sin from our lives if we would someday “dwell with the everlasting burnings.”  Through faith in the cross of Christ, we may face the “fire from God” now rather than later.  This is letting our sins be brought “beforehand” to judgment as in 1 Timothy 5:24.
"‘This hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.’  It is fire from the altar, which, when cast on the earth, works destruction. The same fire that cleanses those who confess their sins, consumes those who cling to them. The saints of God, having been tried in the fire, as gold, and having had all the alloy of sin purged away by it, can dwell amid everlasting burnings which will consume the wicked like chaff.”   (E. J. Waggoner, Present Truth (UK) Articles, January 26, 1899 page 67).
“What will then become of the fire? Will it go out? Certainly not; for it is eternal. The fire that consumes the wicked is the Spirit of the Lord's mouth, and His own brightness (2 Thess. 2:8).  ‘Our God is a consuming fire,’ and He is from everlasting to everlasting.  ‘A fire goeth before Him, and burneth up His enemies round about’ (Psalm 97:3).  But still He is the everlasting dwelling place of His people, who are able to dwell with the devouring fire, and with ‘everlasting burnings’ (Isa. 33:14).  The same fire that destroys the wicked will be a protection to the righteous” (E. J. Waggoner, Present Truth (UK), October 17, 1901 page 658).
Trying to accomplish this separation from sin without complete and utter dependence upon Christ and His power is fatal, as we see in the story of Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-11).  Alcohol or any other addictive element that compromises our higher reasoning (frontal lobe) adds to this craziness.
“The spiritual faculties are, to a large extent, dependent upon the physical.  The two are not separate and distinct, but closely joined together.  No one can fully exercise his spiritual faculties while his mind is beclouded and his physical faculties benumbed from any cause, as for example from improper eating and drinking.  The fate of Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron is set before us as a terrible warning of the danger that lurks in this act, and an object lesson upon the relation between the physical nature and the spiritual perceptions” (E. J. Waggoner, Present Truth (UK), October 12, 1893 page 436). 
When we are eternally convicted that we can fully trust the everlasting arms that are carrying us (Deuteronomy 33:26-29), we can truly worship in reverent thanksgiving from the heart.  Do we realize what we have been saved from?  Do we see how God has become the refuge of the human race from the attacks of the enemy, and what is has cost Him to do this?
Only the indwelling of Christ shows us the truth, supplies our heart’s desire, and heals our broken lives here and now.  Just like Hannah (1 Samuel 1), we should dedicate all of the blessings the indwelling Christ brings with Him to His service in interceding for and ministering to His people.  Otherwise, our latent self-concern and lack of the “saint’s patience,” will make our ministry corrupt.  Our worship will become like king Saul’s disobedient ceremonialism, which brought on the curse of God by “mixing common and holy things.”  As we study and worship this Sabbath, we face the same temptation:
“To propose to keep the Sabbath of the Lord—the seventh day, Saturday—without the living presence of Christ in the heart, by faith, is but to bear the sign without the thing signified; is but to have the form without the reality,—the form of godliness without the power,—and is formalism, ceremonialism, ritualism only, and is precisely of the same nature, if it differs in degree, as is the Catholic system throughout.  Ours is not this.  On the contrary, it is the faith which takes Christ first of all as the most precious gift of God, and which finds in him the beginning and the end, the first and the last, the sum of all things good or right; in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and in whom alone all they that are of faith are complete.  This is not ritual: it is life itself, the “life of Jesus made manifest in our mortal flesh” (2 Corinthians 4:10, 11)” (A. T. Jones, American Sentinel Articles, February 14, 1895 page 49).
Let us worship God in “spirit and truth” through the indwelling Word and the cleansing Spirit.
“Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear; For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28, 29).

--Todd Guthrie